UN issues appeal to bolster COVID-19 ‘logistics backbone’ or response could stutter to a halt
The heads of major UN humanitarian agencies and offices have launched an urgent appeal for $350 million to support global aid hubs to help those most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an open letter that appeared on Sunday in The Guardian (UK), the heads of UN agencies, including among others, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), along with the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affair (OCHA), said cancelled flights and disrupted supply routes have prompted the appeal to enable a rapid scale-up of staff and supplies to places hardest hit by the virus.
Against the backdrop that developing countries, with the least ability to contain the coronavirus, could become repositories for the disease and may drive new COVID-19 waves around the world, the UN agency heads warned that without these facilities, “the global response could stutter to a halt”.
Explaining that humanitarian agencies work in places that are “potentially huge reservoirs where it is hard to manage the virus,” Mr. Lowcock maintained that “nobody is going to be safe, until everyone is safe”.
“This isn’t just about compassion and empathy it’s about hard self-interest.”
WFP needs a massive expansion of its transport and logistics services, including its UN Humanitarian Air Service, which is available to all aid professionals.
The intention is to utilize two active commercial air transport centres in Europe to charter flights for moving humanitarian staff to crisis areas, including the Middle East and Africa. It also aims to transport the provision of seven global field hospitals dedicated to treating humanitarian workers who become infected with the disease during their work.
Appealing for help
The appeal follows months in which countries have largely forged their own ways as many global political institutions – including those of the EU – have struggled to find consensus.
The letter also comes after Secretary-General António Guterres launched on 25 March, a $2 billion appeal for a Global Humanitarian Response Plan, only $550 million of which has been pledged to date, and on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s suspension of WHO funding, the UN agency heading the coronavirus fight.
The letter painted a picture of the coronavirus as the “most daunting challenge facing humanity since the second world war”, pointing out that it “knows no borders, spares no country or continent, and strikes indiscriminately”.
“In this race against an invisible enemy, all countries must fight back but not all begin from the same starting line,” it spelled out, noting that in countries where the world’s most vulnerable need humanitarian aid and supplies to beat back the pandemic, “cancelled flights and disrupted supply routes hit disproportionately hard”.
“It is in everyone’s interest to stop the virus from spreading unchecked, destroying lives and economies, and continuing to circle around the world,” the letter stressed.
The services provided by WFP on behalf of the entire global humanitarian community, will enable “a swift, efficient response to COVID-19 for the most vulnerable people”, promised the UN agency heads.
Noting that everyone around the world, is facing “the same mortal threat”, they underscored that “every step that speeds delivery, saves lives”.
“Now is the time to step up together, to prevent needless suffering, and to fulfil the promise of a better future for all,” concluded the letter.
UN agencies issue urgent call to fund the global emergency supply system to fight COVID-19
Following is the text of the open letter:
Dear donor community,
Humanity is collectively facing its most daunting challenge since the Second World War. COVID-19 knows no borders, spares no country or continent, and strikes indiscriminately. By all accounts, we are at least 12 months away from a vaccine.
In this race against an invisible enemy, all countries must fight back, but not all begin from the same starting line. In countries where the world’s most vulnerable need humanitarian aid and supplies to beat back the pandemic, cancelled flights and disrupted supply routes hit disproportionately hard. It is in everyone’s interest to stop the virus from spreading unchecked, destroying lives and economies, and continuing to circle around the world.
The UN Secretary-General on 25 March launched the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, requesting US$2 billion to boost the global response. You have been fast and generous in your funding and have extended lifelines to those who were already caught up in war, poverty and the worst effects of climate change – especially at a time when your own populations are suffering from the impact of the virus.
Around $550 million has generously been made available to implement the Plan so far, with significant additional resources being mobilized and pledged.
The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has also released $95 million to kick-start the COVID-19 response, help contain the spread of the virus, maintain supply chains, and provide assistance and protection to the most vulnerable people, including women and girls, refugees and internally displaced persons. But more needs to be done.
To get more deliveries off the ground, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is setting up the vital logistics backbone that will help save lives and help halt the spread of the virus. WFP now urgently needs additional funding to establish the necessary transport hubs, charter vessels and provide aircraft for cargo, health workers and other essential staff.
All elements of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan are crucial and need continued funding, but without these logistics common services, the global response could stutter to a halt. Now is not the time to slow down. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
We, humanitarian organizations from across the world, therefore, call upon you to urgently support this global emergency supply system with an initial $350 million to enable a rapid scale-up of logistics common services.
These services, which WFP provides on behalf of the entire global humanitarian community, will enable a swift, efficient response to COVID-19 for the most vulnerable people. Any delay in our action could undermine global efforts to bring the pandemic under control.
The scale-up of the COVID-19 services includes:
Establishing, equipping and managing international consolidation hubs and regional staging areas.
Air and shipping cargo services.
Passenger air services, with the necessary measures to avoid further spreading of the virus.
Medical evacuation services for front-line workers.
Infrastructure and construction of treatment centres.
Real-time remote data collection.
Critical investments required to safely deliver operations and services.
Whatever it takes, we as humanitarians are determined to meet people’s urgent needs. The upscaling of the common services that we all depend on is crucial to enable us to meet these needs.
Every human being, in every nation around the world, is facing the same mortal threat. Every step that speeds delivery, saves lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented all of humanity with a unique challenge, and only a uniquely global response can halt its forward march.
Now is the time to step up together, to prevent needless suffering, and to fulfil the promise of a better future for all.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Mr. Mark Lowcock, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
Ms. Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Mr. David Beasley, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, United Nations World Health Organization (WHO)
Mr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Mr. António Vitorino, Director-General, United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Ms. Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Mr. Gareth Price-Jones, Executive Secretary, Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR)
Mr. Ignacio Packer, Executive Director, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)
Mr. Sam Worthington, President and CEO, InterAction
Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Mr. Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)